Sculptures for a Naturalistic Playscape

Term: 4 Year: 2016

The Artists in Schools program is a wonderfully creative program for two reasons. One, it takes you, the art teacher, on an art journey, facilitating an artist’s work from concept to finished product. Secondly, it develops a deeper appreciation of the visual arts by providing an opportunity for the students to work with a professional artist thus gaining a deeper understanding of how art is created.

The Natural Playscape evolved at Whitehorse Primary School, perhaps as a counter-balance to the child’s use of the digital world. After discussion with our Stephanie Alexander Program Garden Specialist, a piece of derelict land within our school grounds proved a perfect site. The Playscape was built by the students under the guidance of our Garden Specialist, thereby instilling a greater ownership of this project.

A Naturalistic Playscape is an interactive natural environment where the students can play, explore, and discover the natural world. Its features include a dry river bed, a granite gravel pathway, an olive tree maze, a tee-pee hideout, and a creative play area where students can create natural pictures using found objects such as twigs, bark, stones, feathers, petals, leaves. The project encourages students to be more diverse, imaginative, and creative in their play.

There was a danger that placing a man-made sculpture in the area risked being a contradiction in terms, and success hinged on the sensitivity and creativity of the artist. After some investigation I was fortunate to meet with the sculptor Glenn Romanis. His work reveals a deep concern for the relationship between storytelling and the natural environment.

The students met Glenn and had a discussion about his thoughts and ideas, and a wonderful PowerPoint of his extensive art portfolio was explored. Students then worked on ideas and designs with Glenn. Involving our students in the designing and the art making process was paramount to the Artists in Schools program so that they could contribute their ideas and thoughts to the creation of the artwork.

Back in Glenn’s extensive studio at Jan Juc, using two massive cypress tree trunks sourced from Victoria’s Western District, he designed and carved two large sculptures based on native seed pods found local to our area, the Acacia pycnantha, commonly known as the Golden Wattle.

Whilst visually stunning and stimulating within the Playscape, the giant seed-pod inspired sculptures are organic shapes with carved surfaces, abstract enough to lend themselves to the students’ creative imagination whether that be as simple seats, a canoe, or the depressions on the sculptures being used for making mud baths or mini roads to walk imaginary characters. The sculptures wholly keep the theme of the Naturalistic Playscape.

I would like to thank Glenn Romanis for his professionalism towards this project and the Whitehorse City Council for making this wonderful project possible.

Julia Martin
Visual Arts Teacher
Whitehorse Primary School

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